highlightHER!™️

Highlighting women who exemplify TSG! Vibes 🌟💫

HighlightHER has taken on new heights and will now be in blog format! Please take the time to read about these influential women and subscribe to see who’s being showcased next. 💕

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This week we are featuring a pillar of the community, Mrs. Precious Benson. She is in our businesses, our streets, our schools and so much more, doing the work to help make this community a better place for all of us! Precious doesn’t just talk about it, she is about it. Precious exhibits all the qualities of a true Leader. Her multiple nominations to be highlighted show what an impact she has on the women around her!

Precious was born in Baltimore, MD. Now, a 31-year-old Mother and Wife, she has managed to overcome a difficult childhood and turned her trials into triumph.

Precious is a Fraud Analyst for M&T Bank and Co-Founder of Benson DevelopmentGroup, LLC. Benson Development Group, LLC is a management firm who offers Consulting and Financial Services to the Delmarva communities. Their mission is to build a strong relationship with the communities we serve, use business to inspire and provide superior service to each client we represent. BDG is a certified Minority Business Enterprise (MBE), Veteran Owned Business Enterprise (VOBE) and a Disadvantage Business Enterprise (DBE) with the State of Delaware.

Mrs. Benson has over five years of sales and management experience. She started with M&T Bank in 2013 and aggressively navigated through four promotions and positions to reach her current role as a Fraud Analyst.

Precious has established herself as a remarkable leader and is known as the go to person with every position she holds. Precious truly has a heart for serving her community.

When she’s not busy being a wife and mom to her two kids (Kenya 11 and Christian 4), you will find her at the local soup kitchens serving food or diaper pantries handing out pampers and wipes to mothers in need. She is the founder of CHEC (Capturing Hope Empowerment Center) where their mission is to provide at risk youth with an educational curriculum and field trips throughout the summer, which provides them an opportunity to learn about different ethnic cultures. Mrs. Benson also serves on the board of directors for Gotta Be a Better Way Foundation, The Western Sussex Boys and Girls Club and the Governor Appointed Delaware State Board of Nursing and Vice President of the Delaware Board of Clinical Social Work Examiners.

Precious has a gift of connecting people of diverse backgrounds and expertise in efforts to promote shared interests. She best demonstrated this ability when she helped organize the first ever TEDxSeaford events in the summer and fall of 2016. Both events joined over 100 leaders of nonprofit, business, and government in a thoughtful exchange of ideas around personal, professional, and economic development.

Mrs. Benson’s impact and efforts did not end there. Last year Precious helped spearhead the 100 Man Initiative where business professionals welcomed elementary school students on their first day back from summer vacation. Today, these same professionals mentor a select group of students for the Seaford Middle School Gentlemen’s Club.

Precious is Delaware Business Times 40 under 40 Honoree and a Delaware Today Woman in Business recipient. In addition, she was presented with the 2019 She’s On Way Award from the Delaware Office of Women’s Advancement and Advocacy and First Lady Carney.  Precious is a leader in every area of her life. Most importantly, she sacrifices her time and resources to help others create a better existence here on earth.

Precious leaves the women of TSG with this:

Work for it more than you hope for it. You are powerful, beautiful, brilliant and brave. Embody that and go be the best you possible. ~Precious

I’m truly honored and blown away by the work Precious puts in on a daily basis She even made me rethink things I could be doing better to service our community. Precious is a light of motivation that we all could use! She passed the light on to me and I’m hoping to pass it along to everyone who reads this! Thank you Precious Benson! THERE SHE GO!

Precious pictured with U.S. House Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester

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This week’s highlightHER goes to the fashionista herself, La’Toya Jackson! La’Toya empowers the everyday woman by making clothing to fit every woman’s body! She is very humble and puts her heart and soul into her craft. She represents beauty from the inside out and she has taken the time to let us in on how she has grown into the respected entrepreneur she is today! She is determined to inspire, motivate and make all women feel beautiful. La’Toya exhibits courage! She took a leap of faith by turning her passion into her career. There She Go!

I grew up in Rhodesdale, Maryland, where it’s real country. I was the baby of the family, so I definitely had to find my own path in life. It didn’t take me long to figure out that college wasn’t for me. Everyone around me seemed like they had found their thing. I wanted “a thing”!

I could barley pay my bills with my job and I had a daughter I needed to take care of. I thought about selling clothes wholesale but that didn’t work out at all. I thought, Why am I trying to push someone else’s stuff? One day while thrifting, I picked up a sewing machine for $8. I didn’t know the first thing about sewing with a sewing machine but I wanted to try. My mom made sure it worked and showed me how to thread it and sew a straight line. My aunt came over and started showing me the basics of sewing, she has been sewing for years and made all her and her kids clothes. My aunts passion for sewing really drew me in.

I watched hundreds of YouTube videos, bought books and too many sewing patterns to count. I can’t even count the failed projects lol. I kept practicing because it was something I really wanted to do. I did give up a few times, I let fear and doubt consume me. Luckily, I was surrounded by people who believed in me and they pushed me to keep going. I honestly think that’s what kept me going , I did not want to fail the people who invested in me financially and spiritually. Most importantly I could not fail my daughter, she needed to see something other than “the struggle”.

I started making things for myself and posting them to social media, just to put out there, hey I can sew. The more clothes I made, the better I got. My first real sewing customer was a good friend who trusted me to make his sisters prom gown. I was so excited but so nervous because I had never made anything that extreme. He believed in my work so much that he knew I could make a prom gown without a problem. To make a long story short her prom gown came out beautiful and to this day is still one of my favorites projects.

Sewing soon became a passion for me. I had my own fashion show at The Groove City Culture fest. I have been a guest on Live 97.5 twice. I team up with a local hairstylist and we do “Sip n Sew” every few months. I’m a sewing instructor. I’ve made prom gowns, wedding gowns, blazers, fur sweaters, and so much more. I have done a lot in the past five years and sometimes I have to remind myself how far I’ve come. I guess you can say “I’m Reaping what I Sew,” my slogan.

I struggled with being happy at work and wanting to sew full time. I knew I had to pay the bills but I also knew I was no longer being fulfilled at work. I mean I loved what I did because I helped my community in many different ways, but I felt so drained at the end of the day. I had nothing left to give to anything else. I prayed about it one night and a couple days later when I pulled into work, I made a decision to resign from my job after almost nine years. Honestly I wasn’t scared, I never felt more sure about anything in my life. I just knew I felt restrained from being my best me and I sat down with my mentor to strategically plan. I didn’t just up and quit without a plan of action. All I want to do is sew, and create beautiful things. Two months in and I never felt more free, happy, or like myself. I have so many things on the list to do my cup runneth over with blessings.

People I know and don’t know are stopping me to tell me how proud they are of me and how much they support me in what I am doing. That is the best feeling ever to get support from your home town and from your own people. I’ve always heard your own people will be the last to support you. That’s not necessarily true, my people have supported me, my brand (Le’Toi), and my vision since day one, and I can not be more Greatful. Five years ago I would never pictured myself here but I’m thankful for where I am and very excited for what the future holds.

-La’Toya

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This week we are highlighting the gorgeous Marcia Iacono-Hazzard. Marcia has always been a woman at the front of women empowerment! Handed many responsibilities at an early age, the world on her back, pain in her heart, she still has moved with grace and dignity! Marcia knows deep loss, so her appreciation for the present and making the most of today is unmatched. An entrepreneur, a mom, a wife, a sister, a daughter, a friend, A BOSS, she truly does it all with a smile on her face and love in her heart and ambition in her soul. Marcia is what we call FIERCE! She has never let anything stop her! THERE SHE GO!

My name is Marcia Iacono and I was raised most of my life in Claymont, DE. Born 1 of 5 siblings with my brother being 9 years older than the rest of us, I was the oldest daughter of 4 girls. My father committed suicide at a young age & drug addiction took over almost my entire family.

We were raised for most of our childhood by my grandmother. She was an independent woman & after 5 failed marriages she was on a man hating spree & drilled it in us to never depend on a man! She was an angry woman who was severely abusive both mentally and physically, but she had alot on her plate taking in 5 grandchildren after raising 4 kids of her own. She was a hard worker & as far back as I remember she always had 2 jobs. Being the oldest I had no choice, but to grow up fast & help take care of my sisters. To this day if you ask them, I have always been more of a Mom than a sister to them.

At the age of 14 my Mother decided to move us down to Sussex County, which was a huge culture shock being a girl from the city! I absolutely hated it down here in the beginning. First I attended Sussex Central & then the following year we moved to Seaford. Again I was not happy living down here & now at the start of my 10th grade year in another new school, we received a phone call that would forever change my life. My brother, my best friend, and the only father figure I ever had passed away suddenly at the age of 24 in a car accident. After that I completely shut down & I refused to go to school and I contemplated suicide daily & even attempted a few times. I walked around very angry for alot of years. I always asked why I was given such a horrible life?! I finished high school with little friends & most people probably didnt think I was the nicest girl, but at that point I felt like the world was out to get me!

Fast forward a few years I discovered the power of positivity. At first I was skeptical with the whole “thoughts become things”, because I could not comprehend that I was causing all of these bad things to happen in my life. It wasnt for some time and many books later that I realized it’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters! With that I changed my mindset from “why me?” To “TRY ME!!” With this new found knowledge I had a brand new outlook on life and I shared this information with as many people as I could!

Now comes the success story. At the age of 18 I moved out and got my first place. I was always a huge animal lover, but growing up I wasn’t allowed to even have so much as a gold fish as a pet. When I got my own house the first thing I did was buy a Yorkshire terrier puppy. After 3 awful grooming experiences I decided I would never take my dog to another grooming salon. After several awful at-home haircuts I decided I should learn how to groom. Grooming schools were about 6 grand and there was no way I could afford that. So I came across Petsmart who will send you to school for free in exchange for signing a 2 year contract that you will work for them. At 20 years old now and no college education I figured this was my best option. My intentions were only to learn how to groom my own dogs. I had no idea it would spark a huge passion in me.

I absolutely loved what I did, just not where I did it at. Being a strong minded Italian woman I knew at a young age that I had to be my own boss. After quickly taking the leadership role at Petsmart, I knew I could run my own salon. It ignited a flame in me that would send me down a path of trials and tribulations in the attempt to achieve what I truly believed was my destiny. I started working with the Small Business Association to get the wheels in motion. Once I had a clear plan I started beating on every bank in Sussex County’s doors. I thought passion would be enough, but I was met everytime with a harsh reality that it was not enough. I felt like the only thing holding me back was that I didnt come from a wealthy family and I had noone to give me money.

After several “no’s” from banks I wanted to give up. Everytime I got knocked down I would get back up a little slower, but i would keep fighting. I was exhausted, but I couldn’t see myself doing anything else in life & I knew if I gave up I would spend the rest of my life regretting it. So I spent the next 4 years busting my butt at Petsmart & saving every penny I could. I also saved 4 years of tax returns in a separate account that I didn’t have access to. After 4 years of saving and now a total of 8 years at Petsmart, I managed to save 10k! Now I had passion AND money to return to the banks with.

I came across a 5 acre commercial property with a building. It was abandoned for years and smelled so bad I had to cover my nose while looking at it, but I saw its potential. I thought to myself the banks wouldn’t even give me a loan to lease a place let alone buy an entire property, but I made a new business plan and went for it anyway. To my suprise I was approved for a loan-FINALLY!! I had to put my house up for collateral, take out a life insurance policy and give them all of my savings & I literally went ALL IN on a dream!!

After many years of envisioning what my salon would look like my vision came to life! I now am the owner of a gorgeous upscale grooming salon! I have been in business 4 years and we have grown faster than I could of ever imagined. We have over 1600 clients in this area, we are booked 7 weeks out & have not been able to take new clients in almost 2 years!

I now know that anything is possible with hard work, persistence, passion & positivity & I encourage everyone I come across to go after their dreams! I am living proof that would you truly believe, you can achieve!

I pride myself on being a mother, wife & boss, but most importantly a woman others can look up to, especially my daughter! ❤

Never give up!!

-Marcia

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We are showcasing the lovely Alexis Mister this week! Alexis brings women together by joining beauty and opportunities. She is an Entrepreneur who is determined to lead her industry with positivity and empowerment. Alexis has overcome many obstacles personally and professionally and defines the word perseverance! I thank Alexis for sharing her testimony! We come together through related struggle and related pain! Never give up! THERE SHE GO!

As far back as I can remember I always loved making things “more beautiful” in my eyes. I was always drawn to beauty, art, being able to take something good or normal and enhance it to something great.  I watched my mom every single morning get up, do her hair, put on her makeup and always have the most put together outfits. My mom was a full on pink lip stick wearing hustler who played many different roles and doing them all to perfection. I grew up seeing a strong woman, and knowing that I would be too!

I expressed at the age of 14 that I wanted to go to Sussex Tech so that I could go into the cosmetology program. I got the acceptance letter and knew that’s the path I was going to take. My mom started looking into local salons for me to apply and there was a salon in Laurel, DE called “The Edge of Creation” that she said she had heard nothing but good things about. I finally ended up getting the job July of 2006.

I was newly 16 and extremely shy, timid and introverted. I knew I wanted to do hair and makeup, but I had no clue how much more there was to it. I worked in the salon for 9 years until it closed, and in that 9 years I went from a 16 year old shampoo girl who struggled speaking to having a rapidly growing clientele. I saw these busy stylists, who were all moms, wives, and truly loved what they did years into their career, with the income that made me want it even more.

In those 9 years, I had learned more of the business aspect of the salon. The growth that happened in that period was definitely the foundation to my success. I saw my boss put her heart and soul into the business and she was truly like family to me, the dynamic in the salon was beautiful. Older stylists helped the younger ones; we worked effectively and hard together and played even harder.

 At 17 years old, I got pregnant with my son. Going in as a senior at Sussex Tech, pregnant, was not something I had ever thought would happen. I had terrible morning sickness, and ended up missing tons of mornings at school. The administration called my mom to tell her I had missed too many hours and I would either have to repeat the 12th grade, or graduate from another high school without my cosmetology license. I was truly devastated; everything I had planned, I was so close to completing, wasn’t going to happen now.

I dropped out of Sussex Tech and enrolled into James H Grove Adult High school. My boss said she would let me apprentice under her cosmetology license so I didn’t have to go back to school after the baby. That was such a game changer; her giving me the opportunity lifted my spirits more than she will ever know! I went to class with two guys sitting behind me that would laugh and talk about me being pregnant. I hated it, I wanted to quit so many times! I had my final exam scheduled to determine me passing or failing the 12th grade. The day of my exam, I went into labor. I ended up taking my exam with my 4 day old baby in the car with my mom and I passed that day! I graduated when Kamren was 3 months old, started my apprenticeship and continued on my journey as a hairstylist.

A year after having my son, his dad was killed in action in Iraq. I had two soldiers come to my house to notify me of his death; at that point, I was the sole provider, care taker and parent for our child. You would think that would’ve pushed me to be better and do better but it actually put a huge burden on my soul to find something or someone to “complete” me or my little family I thought I needed. I ended up getting into an extremely toxic and abusive relationship. My soul and body were physically drained. Some things happened that I was not sure I could come back from; I had lost myself.

Through the good, the bad & all in between, my work ethic always stayed strong because hair was something that came natural, talking to people made me happy, my clients never judged anything in my life and always loved me for me and always supported me for who I was; as did everyone I worked with at that time. It was then I realized that situations will never define who I am. I had to stay true to myself and because I am a lover, I will love. Because I am a giver, I will give, and at no point will I feel bad for loving people that didn’t deserve my love. When I realized who I was, that I truly was beautiful and deserved more, I started evolving.

Some things I have learned along the way is, nothing ever works out the way you think it should, but everything  DOES happen for a reason and everything has a purpose. Relationships I thought would last forever didn’t, and now I have met the most amazing man on planet earth. Friends I thought would be my ride or die, aren’t, and to let toxic friendships go is so liberating. Family will always be there, but it’s okay to distance yourself from family who are toxic and know that it has nothing to do with them and everything to do with you and your personal growth.

I decided to build my salon Lexi & Co. Design Studio, not to be an average salon, but to be the salon that I needed when I was 16. It’s amazing in 6 weeks of being open that my team has 5 stylist, 1 barber, 2 estheticians, 1 massage therapist, a salon manager, salon assistant/apprentice and a few pending applications for various positions. I am overwhelmed of the outpouring of love I’ve been receiving and I’m so humbled, grateful and overjoyed by all of this.

Lexi & Co. is designed for young stylist/professionals to flourish and grow. I want everyone to feel like they can be themselves and it is a 100% drama free zone! I am creating something different in this beauty industry that I have been setting up my whole life with my past experiences. I love what I do, but I have learned I love young hard working woman more. I am looking forward to this journey and what’s in store for my personal growth, my business and all my stylists, professionals and assistants in the salon! I thank God for answered and unanswered prayers and I am letting him take the wheel and know that everything that happens, has a purpose!

I encourage any young woman to go out and get your dream, its waiting for you. God didn’t give you a vision if you didn’t have the ability to bring it to life. You have the ability to be something and create something great, and the only thing that’s stopping you is you!

-Alexis

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This week we are honoring the beauty Amanda Garris! But there’s so much more behind the surface. Amanda’s spirit, glow and heart make her a stand out! The way she has been an open book of the struggles in her life, only hoping to Uplift someone else. The way she lets people in to the steps she has taken to become the God fearing woman she is today. The way she makes other women feel beautiful through aesthetics or soulful words. Amanda exudes what we call Strength. Only true strength allows us to dig deep, only true strength allows us to inspire through our testimony and only true strength allows us to bounce back. A true example of what THERE SHE GO represents.

Amanda shared with us where her strength comes from:

I am Amanda Lynn Garris. I was born and raised in Millsboro Delaware. When I look back over my life I see struggle, pain, hurt, disappointments, neglect, abuse, and loss. That is looking in the natural. But when I look in the spiritual I see favor. In spite of all the circumstances that presented themselves, or some that I even caused I have managed not only to transform my own life, but also transform my thinking. Once I changed the way I viewed circumstances, the circumstance changed. In 2015 when my mother passed away during my pregnancy I thought this right here is it, I thought that circumstance would be the end of me. Somehow, that very circumstance actually became my motivation. To really do all the things I wanted to do, to be all the things I only hoped to be for my mother, and to let go of anything that hurt me. I went on to finish my Associates Degree in Human Service and graduate in May of 2018. After graduation I immediately enrolled in Delaware Learning Institute of Cosmetology to receive to diploma of Aesthetics. I began my business Agape Beauty during my student career. As of today I am officially a Licensed Aesthetician. I am a skin therapist. Not only do I treat and care for the skin. But I encourage internal well being with a renewed mind. My only goal is to help enrich woman too see beauty within themselves and within every obstacle that life may bring!

-Amanda

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    This week we are celebrating Jenna Hare. Jenna is from Sussex County and has been a strong statement in health and fitness in our community. What makes her so inspiring is her positive outlook, her faith and how she loves to help other women by sharing her fitness secrets. It’s not too often you find the whole package in someone, but Jenna is definitely that! Jenna makes a difference in our community by being the example and encourages other women to love themselves. She is what we call an inspiration. The true definition of There She Go! Jenna is a personal trainer and offers workout programs. Check her out through IG or Facebook!

    Jenna has opened up and shared with us how she became inspired:

    Growing up I constantly was always into something- between school functions, sports, or just always hanging out with friends. I loved staying busy and meeting new people. I have always been a very social and outgoing person, but there was a time in my life where I stayed distant and I reached a very dark place. When school and sports ended I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I had one focus and that was a relationship. I was very unhappy with myself and I never focused on doing anything for just ME.

    I started exercising occasionally at the local gym and that is where it all started. I became so addicted. I started gaining my confidence back and I actually worked out because I loved the way it felt. I loved that I had control of my life because that was my personal decision and no one stopped me from that. I started getting really into it and I wanted to help other women feel the way I felt because I knew that many others were going through what I was. I got my personal trainer certification a few years ago and started working with women- helping them feel happy and confident again. I believe that the best way to achieve happiness is to treat yourself right! I absolutely love helping people and one day I plan to pursue my passion full-time. We need more confident women in this world and one day at a time I will help them as much as I can.

    To live your best life, you have to be open to new people, new experiences, and new circumstances. You can adapt to anything and attract the best in the world when you’re taking care of yourself. When you respect yourself–others will respect you.”

    Jenna

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    This week we are celebrating Angela Owens. If you are from around the way you probably know her as “AO” who scored 1,000 points at Seaford High and Wesley College in Girls Basketball. Behind the surface is a young woman who grew up on 3rd North, who has always wanted to lead the youth to make better choices. She graduated from La Salle University with her Masters in Clinical Counseling and now serves in the city of Philadelphia by being an advocate for the youth. Even with every odd stacked against her; She makes a difference in our community. She is what we call MAGIC! The definition of THERE SHE GO! Angie also writes poetry. Follow her words on IG @turn_of_the_tidee. She has written this poem just for the ladies of TSG!:

    A woman is a connector.

    A connector of life, connector of love.

    Carefully designed to carry The Future, a superpower handed down from a woman of the past.

    Resolve unmatched, she has grown to balance the weight of the world as it spins.

    When the axis tips, when the evenness becomes undone, expand your horizons, there are others; built like you, crafted to the be the stillness in a storm.

    Together, the gravity equaled; the stars of tomorrow shine brighter.

    AO